MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- A slight breeze was accompanied by the sound of Marines gathering together to be recognized for another year as a top battalion among the many surrounding them.
The Marines of 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, were awarded the Lieutenant General “Chesty” Puller Award March 7, for their sustained superior performance in areas such as career retention, discipline, training and multiple deployments.
“This award is really about leadership, and you are all great leaders here and have great leadership,” said Lt. Gen. Keith J. Stalder, II MEF commanding general. “This is a tough award to win and there are a lot of talented and exceptional units out there.”
Over a period of time, from April 1 to Sept. 30, 2006, the battalion was recognized for multiple accomplishments. Although spread thin throughout the Corps, they maintained all aspects needed to have a successful group of Marines. On average, 31 percent of the battalion is deployed supporting combat operations in Iraq.
“All of the statistics from your battalion are remarkable especially since your battalion is deployed more than anybody,” Stalder said. “I am out there and see a lot of things and a lot of units and you are among the best.”
When the battalion is not forward deployed, demanding amounts of training takes place here. The battalion supported more than 4,951 Marines and sailors across II MEF spending more than 2,400 hours in the field. During this time, they logged over 61,000 road miles and maintained a 96% equipment readiness status.
All this, combined with the leadership of junior Marines and noncommissioned officers, the award is a lot to live up to for these hard chargers.
“It gives us a good tradition among us, and it gives us something to look forward to,” explained Lance Cpl. Matt D. Griffin, a combat engineer with Company A. “It makes it tough though because you don’t want to be the one to mess up when we have been winning this award.”
The camaraderie in the battalion is apparent, as the Marines are deployed on a platoon level of approximately 40 Marines per platoon. Going with units on long deployments gives them an opportunity to become close and trust one another with their lives.
The unit has one of the lowest disciplinary rates in II MEF, less than one percent. Safety is a large concern among the unit leaders and they have taken it upon themselves by working with the NCO’s and staff NCO’s to mentor and ensure the well being of their junior Marines.
“I can always trust the Marines around us because we really don’t have any problems with (non-judicial punishment) or anything like that,” explained Cpl. Carlos Rodriguez, a training NCO in Company C. “I know I can put my life in their hands.”
The leadership among the Marines in the battalion is just as it should be. Rodriguez, upon arriving to the battalion, was not in a deployable position. He knew he wanted to deploy and brought it up to a senior Marine in his command, and is now preparing for his first deployment.
“I brought it up to my master sergeant and he made sure I was taken care of, and I will be heading off to Iraq for my first deployment soon,” said the Laredo, Texas, native.
With a close knit group of Marines in the battalion, retention is no problem when it comes time for re-enlistment. The battalion is over its mission and had 117 percent of their goal for first term Marines and 136 percent of their goal for career Marines.
“Marines just come to the career planner looking to re-enlist,” explained Cpl. John T. Greman, an administration clerk with Headquarters and Support Company.
Along with keeping Marines in the Corps, the battalion ensures the well being of their families. The Key Volunteer Network is a boasting part of the unit’s well roundedness. Individuals such as Mrs. Hampton, wife of 1st Sgt. James Hampton and the coordinator of the network, keeps the wives and families informed on all things going on in the battalion.
“The families get really involved here and the KV network is amazing in our unit,” Greman said. “We are always taking care of the Marines while they are deployed, and so are the KV’s.”
This year’s award was yet another mark in the history of the Lieutenant General “Chesty” Puller Award and the battalion as they have received the award for the third time. The battalion is pushing forward with their duties as they send their Marines out in support of the Global War on Terrorism.